In the fall of 1947 Grace gets to know the Havelick family, but somehow manages to elude meeting the man who would become the love of her life. Her best friend is Dorothy, Louie’s little sister. You’ve heard about her and seen her pictures in Louie’s previous letters. In that small town, living in the same neighborhood, I don’t know how she could avoid meeting Louie, but that meeting will have to wait for another letter.
Mary Jane McCurdy
One reason Grace and Louie didn’t meet was that Louie was married to Mary Jane McCurdy. They had a daughter, named Sunnie Jane. Grace mentions the baby in this letter, but does not go into the back story. The received history, not written down, but shared occasionally, was that daughter Sunnie Jane died because of complications of an instrument delivery by an incompetent doctor. She is buried in the family area of the Highland Home Cemetery just north of Jamestown.
My daughter had a spiritual connection with her grandpa Louie and her would be aunt Sunnie Jane. It’s something beyond my understanding, but if you ever send Mara an email, you’ll have a clue as to the depth of her feelings.
On a lighter note, I find it pleasing that twenty years later I went to high school in the same building as my mother, perhaps going to classes in the same rooms. In the last sentence of this letter Grace ends her high school career. She adds a little more detail in the next letter.
The fall of 1947 I started my junior year of high school in Jamestown. I got acquainted real soon with the girls that lived southwest where we did. We all walked to school together + would go to the teen canteen together after school + sometimes to White’s Drug.
Rear view of the “Pink” house a few years after they moved to Jamestown.
How about something a little different this time? Reading this letter from Grace brought up so many memories that I feel the need to say something about every sentence she wrote. There is a story behind each sentence, and this time I feel like I know the back story.
For this letter, I’m going to use a different format than you’re used to. After each sentence of Grace’s, I’m going to give you some background about it. Every sentence in every one of her letters, Louie’s letters, Lucy’s letters and Jim’s letters could probably get the same treatment, but today is my mother’s turn.
We’re on the road again this lovely late summer morning in Wisconsin.
After Grace and Norris got married they usually took at least one trip each year, often several. They brought Chris, Eric and Linn along when they were young enough. Later it was just the two of them. These trips sometimes involved fishing in Canada, hunting in Montana, national parks in Arizona, tourist stops in Wisconsin, or relatives in North Dakota. They put on thousands of miles, stopping every 100 miles for a quick break and to change drivers. On one of their trips the car broke down and they bought a new one in Jamestown. Each of their trips could be its own story. The year she wrote these letters they went through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, stopping to visit relatives, including Judy and me.
Maybe Louie thought he could ride like Alan Wood?
Can you believe how many ways Louie had to get into trouble? In earlier letters we’ve read about his escapades on the railroad, boxing in the Golden Gloves, road apple fights, multiple Halloween pranks, and more. In the next couple of months he will graduate to even more memorable adventures.
By comparison, my childhood feels tame, as was my children’s. They didn’t even get to walk to school, and neither do their kids. Surviving childhood in the thirties and forties must have given those who made it to adulthood a certain invincibility. Anyone who can climb on a wild horse with no instruction, no protective gear, and little preparation must have been able to face the challenges of adult life with no fear.
I was perfectly happy taking my kids on the tame trail ride at the dude ranch in Custer State Park. No bucking broncos for me, thank you.
Back in 1947 I was working at a horse meat packing plant in Jamestown. They had us packing horsemeat and gravy in cans for shipment to Europe for the people there that were starving from the results of the bombing of their homes – farms – and whatever the bombs hit during World War II.